Winter graduation is fast approaching! With only four weeks left of the term, Katie Helm, an AmeriCorps Leadership and Conservation (ACLC) Corpsmember, takes a look back at her 10 months with MHYC.
Within the past ten months I have met the most inspiring people, made a huge difference in my community and experienced personal growth. We began last winter. My crew and I spent our days educating the public on water and energy saving measures by replacing inefficient lights, aerators and toilets with high-efficiency ones. During the summer I worked ten hour days, in 100 degree weather, with 11 extraordinary people alongside me. Together, we built muscle cutting down invasive trees, built character hauling branches through water and up slopes, and built friendships during those sweet lunch breaks in the middle of the day. There is a bond that can only be made after experiencing these challenges together.
As an ACLC, we were encouraged to recognize our strengths, identify and improve upon our weaknesses, and continue to set new goals for ourselves to accomplish throughout the season. My year at Mile High has definitely been a turning point for me. It is beyond rewarding to see the product of all your hard work at the end of a project. This term of service has helped me to determine my career path, introduced me to the resources I need to achieve my goals and the right people to advise me. I can’t think of a better way to have spent the past year.
Katie (left) and two other ACLCs, Jordan and Patrick, take a photo break during a summer land conservation project.
Interested in being an ACLC? MHYC is now hiring for 2014! Read the full position description and apply here.
Posted in ACLC, AmeriCorps, Corpsmember Spotlight, Green Jobs, Uncategorized | Tagged ACLC, AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps Leadership and Conservation, Conservation, Corpsmembers, Denver, Green Jobs | 1 Comment »
My name is Kelly, and since last November, I’ve been the Programs VISTA at Mile High Youth Corps. I’ve also secretly been the editor of this blog. You’re welcome.
When I started this position, I didn’t know what to expect. I’d just finished up two years with AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), so I had a pretty good handle on just what AmeriCorps service was like. I could recite the AmeriCorps pledge and tell you all about the 4000 hours of community service I’d completed. Becoming a VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America), however, presented a whole new set of challenges.
VISTAs work to eradicate poverty throughout the United States by building the capacity of non-profits, thereby allowing them to reach out to and help more people. Instead of the hands-on service I was used to, I was now going to be working in an office behind the scenes. VISTAs also earn a poverty-level stipend and are not allowed to hold another job so that they can better understand the people they are trying to serve.
Most of my friends thought I was crazy (“You’re going to deliberately live in poverty? Like, on purpose?”), but I wanted this opportunity. I really believed in Mile High Youth Corps’ mission—to help youth make a difference in themselves and their community through meaningful service opportunities and educational experiences—and I wanted to support it.
For the past year, I’ve done just that. I’ve prepared curriculum and materials to help prepare Corpsmembers for when they finish their terms at MHYC, created service learning to show them the importance of their actions, supported the functions of the on-site food pantry, helped with the all-corps service days—and more. I am grateful for the time I spent working with the wonderful and dedicated staff and Corpsmembers.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be part of a corps. The dictionary says that a corps is “a band of people working together,” which pretty much sounds like the most boring definition in the entire world—until you see it in action. People coming together to accomplish something for the greater good, dedicating themselves to improving both their neighbors’ lives as well as their own, creating a better world: that is what MHYC is. Being a part of that for the past year has been a real honor. I can only hope my next job is as cool.
Thanks, MHYC. It’s been a blast.
I’m pretty adept at hiding from photos, but this is totally my back.
Posted in AmeriCorps, Service Story, Uncategorized, VISTA | Tagged AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps VISTA, MHYC, Mile High Youth Corps | Leave a Comment »
Mile High Youth Corps’ annual Halloween party, dubbed ‘Boo-Yah!’, was a spook-tacular success! Corpsmembers and staff alike dressed up and competed in Halloween themed activities. Pumpkin carving, Halloween trivia, relay games, and candy were all on the menu. The event culminated in a costume contest, with everyone looking terrifyingly good. A big thank you to all staff and Corpsmembers who participated, and just like a horror movie villain, Boo-Yah! will return next year! For more photos, check out our Facebook page!
Posted in Leadership Council, MHYC Events, Uncategorized | Tagged Corpsmembers, Denver, Leadership Council, MHYC, Mile High Youth Corps, youth, Youth Corps | Leave a Comment »
Recently, members of our ACLC program participated in a career day facilitated by Mile High Youth Corps staff. Brigid McRaith (Regional Director: Metro Denver) and Austin Scott (Donor Relations Officer-Grants) graciously volunteered to discuss their respective roles at Mile High Youth Corps. Topics of discussion included the educational background required for nonprofit positions, day-to-day tasks and responsibilities, professional experience and skill development, and the establishment of career goals. Both Brigid and Austin also participated in question and answer sessions. ACLC members reported feeling positive and informed after the sessions, and we are hopeful that more career panels are yet to come!
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged ACLC, Denver, Mile High Youth Corps, youth development | Leave a Comment »
Last Friday, Corpsmembers participated in Mile High Youth Corps’ first annual Amazing Race competition. Teams were made up of Corpsmembers from YouthBuild, Energy and Water Conservation and Fall Forestry. The tasks included a chainsaw assembly relay, a blueprint reading relay, a poster design contest, an aerator installation relay, a physical training relay, and a personal protective equipment relay. The event was aimed at fostering relationships across crews and giving Corpsmembers insight to the different types of projects within each program. Each task required teams to communicate and work together. The physical training relay was especially difficult where Corpsmembers had to complete a series of push-ups, sit-ups and burpees. It was a testament to camaraderie as the teams cheered for each member to push through the challenge. Noreen Ahmed, YouthBuild VISTA and team leader, said, “It was great to see everyone on the team encouraging one another. They really wanted to see every person do their best.”
Team Sage won by a nose with only 20 points separating the first and second place teams. Their prize: the beautiful MHYC Amazing Race trophy. It was a day of fierce competition, but more than that, it was a day of bonding with other crews, learning to work as a team, and conquering new challenges. We’ll leave you with some of the positive feedback we heard from Corpsmembers after the event:
“The competition aspect was awesome. It was all in good fun, but in making it a competition, everyone really brought their A-game.” – Mike, Fall Forestry
“I enjoyed getting to know new people. Now, when I see other crews around, I can go go up and start a conversation. I also got to assemble a chainsaw. Never done that before!” – Josh, AmeriCorps Leadership and Conservation
“What was great about the Amazing Race is it allowed everyone to show their project-specific expertise. Each activity played to a different crew’s strengths. Every person got the chance to be a leader.” – Patrick, AmeriCorps Leadership and Conservation
It looks like the Amazing Race will be a new annual tradition at Mile High Youth Corps! And don’t miss the live action footage here.
Posted in ACLC, Energy Conservation, MHYC Events, MHYC News, Uncategorized, Water Conservation, YouthBuild | Tagged AmeriCorps, Colorado, Conservation, Construction, Corpsmembers, Denver, Energy Conservation, land conservation, leadership, MHYC, Mile High Youth Corps, Water Conservation, youth, Youth Corps, youth development, YouthBuild | Leave a Comment »
The YouthBuild program concluded Mental Toughness last week; final selections for the program were made on Friday. Mental Toughness is a vigorous, three-week orientation process provided to potential students before entering the program. They participate in academic assessments, leadership development activities and physical training aimed at setting the tone for the rest of the year. Jawnathon Rhines, who was officially accepted into the program last Friday, took a moment to answer a few questions for us:
What attracted you to the program? How did you hear about it?
I was part of cityWILD in high school and became familiar with environmental work. I heard about the YouthBuild program at Mile High Youth Corps through Big City Mountaineers. I really wanted to get my G.E.D, but I was also really excited about working for an environmental organization again. It’s like going back to what I know.
Did anything surprise you about Mental Toughness?
The physical training. I don’t think anyone expected it. We had to run sprints and do lunges every day. It really brought out my leadership abilities, pushing everyone to keep going. It made me more confident in being a leader.
What was one thing you learned during Mental Toughness?
How diverse we all are. It opened my eyes to other peoples’ needs. We really learned to support each other and help pull one another up if they’re struggling.
What is motivating you to be here every day?
First, it was my family; now, it’s the people here. We’re all striving towards a common goal. My crew expects me to show up every day, to be a leader. I don’t want them to be asking, “Where’s Jawnathon today? Why isn’t he here?” They’re counting on me.
What was the biggest highlight of Mental Toughness?
The service project we did at Bluff Lake. It was so empowering. We were clearing a trail after the heavy rains. You could really see that we were part of a change, that we made a difference.
What do you hope to gain this year?
Definitely my G.E.D. I want to grow as a leader. I’m running for Leadership Council this Friday. I want to build myself up and become a stronger person.
Anything else you’d like to add?
This has been a mind blowing experience so far. Being a part of this program, I now have something to strive for.
Posted in AmeriCorps, Corpsmember Spotlight, YouthBuild | Tagged AmeriCorps, Colorado, community, Conservation, Corpsmembers, Denver, GED, Green Jobs, MHYC, Mile High Youth Corps, Service, youth, Youth Corps, youth development, YouthBuild | Leave a Comment »
Ariel Kay has been MHYC’s YouthBuild VISTA for the past year. She has served the agency in a number of ways, from planning service projects to developing sustainable curriculum for the YouthBuild program. As Ariel’s term comes to a close on October 4th, she took a moment to share about the role of VISTAs and her experience at MHYC:
My friends and family often ask me about my job and are left with the question: “what exactly do you do?” Completing a term as a VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America) doesn’t come with a number of hours served, miles of trail built, gallons of water saved or even units of housing built. Indirect service isn’t measured in the same way direct service is and understanding what exactly a VISTA does can be complicated. On December 12, 1964 Lyndon B. Johnson greeted the first group of VISTA Volunteers and I believe he described it best –
I want to welcome you here today, the first front-line volunteers in our war against poverty. You have come from every part of this country, from every age group, from every background. You have come to serve the poor and the unfortunate of American society, and to open the door of American opportunity to all of our American people.
Your pay will be low; the conditions of your labor will often be difficult. But you will have the satisfaction of leading a great national effort, and you will have the ultimate reward which comes to those who serve their Nation and who serve their fellow man.
VISTA is an AmeriCorps program that actually predates AmeriCorps itself. VISTA is specifically aimed at alleviating poverty. Members provide indirect service, meaning that they work behind the scenes, helping non-profit organizations to grow so that they can serve more people. VISTA volunteers agree to live at the poverty level of the community they serve, meaning they earn a very small living stipend and take no other jobs. VISTA is also a year of service, not an hour commitment, meaning a VISTA can be called on at any time to serve as necessary.
I came into my year of service armed only with my VISTA Assignment Description (VAD) and my official title, Post-Secondary Education and Leadership Development Resource Coordinator. I was excited and ready to begin my journey, but I had no idea what I was in for.
I have struggled to come up with the right way to describe the most meaningful part of my year of service.
I certainly take great pride in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service I helped to plan and run. I helped approximately 48 volunteers do various tasks such as paint walls, clean, and sort food donations for a local homeless shelter. I also congratulate myself on the curriculum and service learning I have created, helping Corpsmembers prepare for Post-Secondary Education and increase academic rigor.
However, I am still at a loss for the way to describe my year to people. Amy Poehler once said, “Any time you talk to anyone about something that they love, they’re, like, [at] their most beautiful. It’s a cool gift to get to talk to people about what they love.” This is the overwhelming feeling I am left with in the final stretch of my service. I have spent one year of my life being around people that are incredibly passionate about what they do. I have had the gift of watching them light up as they talk about their time at Mile High Youth Corps, their service or their program, and Amy is right, they are at their most beautiful. This passion is infectious. During my first week of service I got the opportunity to visit the water program and watch AmeriCorps members install low flow toilets and explain why it is so important – I have never cared so much about toilets; I find myself checking how many gallons per flush a toilet uses everywhere I go. I can’t stop myself. Translating this gift and this passion into tangible things—service projects, curriculum, policy manuals—is what I do. I have found my passion in things like the GED test and LEED certified construction projects. I have found this passion because I have had the wonderful gift of listening to others explain their passion for these things. Their eyes light up and they get excited when they talk about their work at Mile High Youth Corps and I can’t help but getting caught up in their excitement and feeling the passion as well. During my year of service I found my compass for compassion, my reason for waking up every morning and saying I want it – I found my passion, and that passion is service.
Lyndon B. Johnson ended his speech,
The initials of your organization spell VISTA. It is an appropriate name, for you will be opening up new vistas of hope for the poor, achievement for yourself, greatness for your Nation, the Nation you serve.
Ariel (left) and Programs VISTA, Kelly, show their support during AmeriCorps week
MLK Jr. Day of Service
Ariel poses with other Colorado VISTAs
Having fun at the Corps Challenge with Colorado Rapids mascot Edson the Eagle
The views expressed in our blog represent that of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Mile High Youth Corps.
Posted in AmeriCorps, MHYC News, Service Story, Uncategorized, YouthBuild | Tagged AmeriCorps, Denver, GED, MHYC, Mile High Youth Corps, Service, VISTA, Youth Corps, YouthBuild | Leave a Comment »